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'He thought he was going to die': Family of teen mistakenly arrested demands accountability

Last Updated Apr 5, 2021 at 11:03 pm EDT

A Black teen was mistakenly arrested in a coordinated takedown by Peel Regional Police and Toronto Police on March 31. They believed he was a suspect wanted for an abduction in Peel region and a murder in Toronto. Credit: David Bosveld.

A run-of-the-mill trip to McDonald’s turned into a traumatic experience for a Black teen due to what police call a regrettable “mistake.”

On March 31, David Bosveld’s 17-year-old godson got into a car that was rented by his friend and was driving in the area of Don Mills Road and Finch Avenue when he suddenly became the subject of a “really dynamic takedown.”

“He was rammed and boxed-in by some unmarked police vehicles” says Bosveld. “They smashed a window, fired flash-bangs into the car, dragged him out of the car face-first on the pavement, handcuffed.”

In a statement posted Monday, Peel Regional Police said the boy was mistaken for kidnapping suspect Kwami Garwood, who is also wanted by Toronto Police for an unrelated murder in July 2020.

They said a coordinated takedown was planned by the two police forces, believing it would be a high-risk arrest, as Garwood is believed to be armed and dangerous.”

RELATED: Police say woman in alleged Brampton kidnapping found, suspect not located yet

“Our job is to keep the community safe. Operating on the belief the individual in the car was the suspect Mr. Garwood, we had a duty to act,” the statement reads, adding that no one was seriously hurt. “Regrettably, the male in the vehicle was ultimately deemed not to be Mr. Garwood.”

Bosveld says his godson, who is not being named because he is a minor, suffered a leg injury, cuts and lacerations to the face along with a sore back and neck in the incident. He was taken to hospital in handcuffs, despite telling police his name and complying with all their instructions. The handcuffs were not removed until X-rays needed to be performed.

“He is traumatized. He thought he was going to die in this incident,” said Bosveld.

According to Bosveld, police did not call the boy’s mother despite him asking for her multiple times and it was the hospital that finally contacted her. When she arrived at the hospital, Bosveld says a Peel police officer began questioning her even before she found out anything about her son.

“The Peel police officer proceeded to try to pump her for information about the suspect that they were looking for, before even giving her information about the condition of her child.” he said.

Bosveld said even after police learned the boy’s true identity, they were not forthcoming with what went wrong.

“They should have been apologetic, but instead they proceeded to file charges related to the fact that he wasn’t supposed to be driving the car [rented by his friend],” he said. “He has a condition that doesn’t allow him to be behind the wheel of a car. That ultimately resulted in a charge of breach of recognizance for breaching that condition.”

Bosveld says his godson is confused about the consequences of his decision to drive the car and the life-threatening situation that he encountered as a result of that decision.

“He is traumatized. He thought he was going to die in this incident,” adds Bosveld.

“Fortunately witnesses were there and they recorded what they could of it. They too were traumatized.”

Bosveld added that video circulating on social media is further traumatizing for the entire Black community in Toronto and Peel.

“Once again we are seeing a young boy, who is not a grown up, being attacked by a police department and profiled for a criminal that the police claimed is armed and dangerous,” said Bosveld.

The teen’s sister posted witness video of the incident on Twitter.

WARNING: this video contains language and content that may be disturbing to some viewers.

“This is a strong family, a proud family, a brave family. They want justice not only on their own behalves but on behalf of the entire Black community.”

Bosveld describes his godson as a “big teddy bear” and a “fun-loving kid” who, despite being scarred by this incident, is strong and resilient.

“He is supported by his family and the entire community and he is going to be ok,” said Bosveld. “We are happy to be having this conversation and that he is ok, because we know with Black children and Black adults, these situations don’t always turn out [like this].”

Bosveld says the family is asking for transparency, acknowledgement and accountability from the police.

“The community has been harmed by this. Anybody who loves and cares about this family is outraged,” said Bosveld.

He added that he hopes police will not further compound the issue by resisting attempts to get clear answers. He says proceeds from an online fundraiser set up for his godson will be used to secure counsel and get legal advice on next steps.

Bosveld also cited Peel police’s arrangement with the Ontario Human Right’s Commission under which they agree to be held accountable for abuses, misconduct and racial profiling and said they plan on invoking that process of accountability.

“Most importantly [we want to know], as police officers, why they’re not capable of looking at this boy and the pictures that they have of the suspect that they’re looking for and determining that these two people do not look similar and the only thing similar about their appearance is Black skin,” he added.

Peel Regional Police’s statement said “we regret this mistake and the distress this has caused this young man and his family.”

They say an internal review has been launched to “examine the events leading to this incident.”

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